Protecting industrial heritage #Oriental Outlook #-Sino-US


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Protecting industrial heritage #Oriental Outlook #
Industrial heritage has been recognized by the United Nations as an important part of the World Heritage, and it has attracted more and more attention all over the world.
 
The Western countries started researching protection of the industrial heritage decades ahead of China because China’s industrialization came late, but now China has also realized the importance.
 
Instead of simply demolishing the industrial buildings, equipment and zones, many industrial sites have been transformed into cultural sites and museums showcasing the industrial history of the sites and related cultures.
 
In its 1st issue of 2018, the Oriental Outlook magazine under the Xinhua News Agency ran a cover story on the protection and development of China’s industrial heritage.
 
Below is an excerpt of the article.
 
Following changes in the mode of production, new industries began to boom and some traditional industries died out. How to deal with the redundant old factories became a problem some cities faced in urban development and construction.
 
Though some buildings and machines were outdated, they were the records of the city’s history. If all the buildings and machines were destroyed by bulldozers, a city’s history would also be completely erased.
 
Such industrial heritage has important historical, scientific and technological, social and cultural, and artistic value.
 
They are important bearers of industrial culture and contain important information about China’s industrial development at different stages, witnessing the country’s industrial development process.
 
In 2006, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage held the country’s first forum on protecting the national industrial heritage in Wuxi, East China’s Jiangsu province. A proposal on protecting industrial heritage was adopted. 
 
Over one decade later, the industrial heritage sites are undergoing the process of regeneration across the country. They have become important parts of urban upgrade and restructuring, while cities are adjusting the industrial structure.
 
They could be used as bases of cultural and creative enterprises and city parks, providing cultural context, showing a city's traits, promoting the sustainable development of regional economy and society and improving quality of life. 
 
On December 20, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology published the first batch of 11 National Industrial Heritage sites across the country, including the Yuzhou factory in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province.
 
The pilot work of protecting and utilizing industrial heritage has been formally carried out in the 11 cities in Liaoning, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Shandong, Hubei and Shaanxi provinces as well as Chongqing municipality.
 
Now, the country’s industrial heritage is at a critical stage of preservation and adaptation. Wider social recognition and deeper understanding is needed for the protection and utilization.
 
From civil to national
 
“Our country started to research, protect and utilize the industrial heritage 10 years ago,” said Zhang Jin, deputy chief engineer of the Research Center for Heritage Conservation and Urban-Rural Development at Tsinghua University.
 
A large number of factories became idle in the backdrop of deepening economic reform at the beginning of this century, and they transferred the right of land use to real estate developers who were in full swing.
 
The old industrial buildings became the objects of bulldozers.
 
Residents in cities with industrial traditions have an intimate relationship with factories, just as it is shown in the movie Steel Guitar, and some started spontaneously to call for protection of the industrial buildings.
 
However, due to a lack of government guidance, there was no large-scale move for their protection and utilization at that time.
 
Some domestic architecture scholars and experts also wanted to utilize the value of industrial heritage as they realized the Western countries had taken large-scale measures in the 1960s to revitalize the industrial heritage.
 
The year 2006 was a milestone in the process of protecting and utilizing the industrial heritage in China. The proposal passed at the Wuxi forum became the first programmatic document to advocate the protection of industrial heritage.
 
In May 2006, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage issued a notice on enhancing the protection of industrial heritage.
 
The industrial heritage came out of the corner then, followed by surveys on cultural relics.
 
Zhang said that the country started to place value on the industrial heritage. “In recent years, the significance of industrial heritage has won wide acceptance in the society, laying a concrete foundation for related work.”
 
In 2013, the State Council published the 7th batch of key national heritage conservation units, including 84 modern industrial sites among 329 industrial heritage sites.
 
In August 2014, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage issued guidelines for the protection and utilization of industrial heritage. The administration is also working on standards for the protection and utilization.
 
Zhang said that the China National Tourism Administration, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the National Development and Reform Commission also paid attention to the industrial heritage in recent years.
 
In March 2016, the NDRC issued the guidance on promoting the relocation of the old industrial zones in urban areas to support the protection of industrial heritage. 
 
In 2017, the NDRC said in a document that “properly utilizing the industrial heritage to develop cultural and tourism industries.”
 
From burden to ‘rich mine’
 
Though the protection and utilization of industrial heritage has been noticed by the country’s top authorities, many people still doubted the significance of maintaining the old buildings and machines.
 
“The industrial heritage was considered as ‘black hole’ of the urban development,” said Zhang Jie, a professor from the School of Architecture under Tsinghua University.
 
The “black hole” pointed to the vacuum created by old buildings and idle lands, the professor said. “A factory was a community. When it went bankrupt, people lost jobs, social services collapsed and surrounding industries also withered.”
 
The professor said that the method to deal with the industrial heritage should depend on the city’s development and be part of solutions to the city problems.
 
The industrial heritage could turn into a cultural card for cities, providing new jobs and regulated urban functions. A “burden” of urban development can thus be transformed into a “rich mine,” Zhang Jie said.
 
Local governments have already pushed ahead the protection and utilization of industrial heritage, listing protected units, such as Shanghai Yangshupu Waterworks, Beijing Coking Chemical Factory and Nanjing Jinling Arsenal.
 
Wuhan, Guangzhou, Daqing and Huangshi have issued regulations on protecting industrial heritage, issuing lists of protected sites, delineating the special areas and making special protection plans.
 
Tangible and intangible
 
Baogang Group sold a locomotive built in the 1950s at a price of 400,000 yuan several years ago, and now the locomotive has become a symbol of the country’s industrial construction history and has appeared in TV programs many times.
 
“Compared with the protection of ancient sites, we do not have complete legal system and management system in protecting the industrial heritage,” said Lu Zhi, deputy mayor of Baotou, a city in Inner Mongolia. 
 
Lu said that the responsibility of the government and enterprises should be clear in the protection of industrial heritage. He said the first task was to fix the definition and evaluation standards.
 
Shan Jixiang, former director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, in 2011 called for accurate surveys and mapping of industrial heritage sites including both unmovable and movable objects, making records in writing, drawings, photographs and videos.
 
The industrial heritage carried the memory of industrial civilization, including the tangible things, such as buildings, transportation facilities and production equipment, and the intangible things, such as culture and spirit.
 
Taking the production process as an example, different industrial fields have different production procedures, and they are an important part of the integrity and authenticity of the industrial heritage.
 
Shan said that technologies and craft skills were important heritage resources, which should be recorded carefully and passed on because they are irreplaceable.
 
“The inheritance of collective memory in a community is very important in the industrial heritage protection,” Zhang Jie said. “A person’s memory is an important element of the whole history.”
 
Now, many museums have been set up at the industrial heritage sites, recording the history, production procedures, skills and the files of the factories, as well as the oral information from workers.
 
In addition, a comprehensive file recording the tangible and intangible heritage should be compiled, and the work on digitalizing the files and promotion on the Internet has also started, Zhang Jie said.
 
Zhang Tinghao, former head of the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage, said that for workers and residents, the factories and machines were not the cold bricks and steel, and they carried the dedication and ideal of people in generations. 
 
“The humanistic spirit has endowed the industrial heritage with the living soul,” he said.
 
These experts believed that the spiritual inheritance was important in the protection and utilization of industrial heritage, and the core was the dignity of labor, hard work and patriotism.
 
Systematic and distinctive
 
There is a consensus that the proper development of the heritage amounts to a kind of protection. The deep integration of industry, culture and tourism will allow the use of the heritage, which will help with its "protection".
 
The success of 798 Art Zone, a well-known art zone in Beijing, has inspired many places to realize the possibility of changing the old factories into cultural and creative parks.
 
On one hand, a city needs the cultural and creative industries in upgrading the city and adjusting industrial structure, and on the other hand, the industrial land and buildings provided the ideal space for the cultural and creative industries.
 
Zhang Jin said that it depended on the urban development and social demand to choose a particular industry heritage development, and large cities have huge demand for cultural and creative industries.
 
But the expansion of the cultural and creative industries in the old industrial sites also faced the homogeneous competition in cities, and creating the right system for reusing the industrial heritage was critical. 
 
Zhang said one good example was the reuse of the Shougang Group’s old factory in Beijing’s Shijiangshan district where buildings were changed into sports venues and offices for the Winter Olympics Organizing Committee.
 
The old industrial sites in remote mountainous areas were difficult to protect and reuse, Zhang said. One possibility was to change these sites into scenic spots because of their natural environment, he said.
 
One such case is the reuse of the old site of the China Academy of Engineering Physics in Mianyang, Sichuan province. A private company, Tie Qi Li Shi Group, changed it into a base integrating green culture, staff training and military tourism.
 
Zhang Jin said the industrial sites could be changed into urban cultural centers, city parks and sports venues, as well as commercial complexes according to the conditions and demands of the city development.
 
The future modes of reusing the industrial sites lies in innovations of every city, he said.

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